Unlike the other departments of the Indian men’s hockey team, the defense has only one Olympic debutant – Amit Rohidas, who has already played 97 matches and has been a regular feature in the core team for the last three years.
The experience that the defensive line brings to the team is unmatched.
Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, we take a look at all the five defenders one by one who would be having the onus on them to stop the opposition attackers from making a move.
Men’s Hockey: Indian defenders at the Tokyo Olympics
The 25-year old defender from Punjab made his debut for India in 2015 and is arguably one of the best drag-flickers in the world. Having played in all major tournaments since making his debut, this will be Harman’s second Olympics after Rio 2016. After a not very inspiring performance in Rio, Harman will be giving it his all at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Punjab lad has already scored 74 goals from just 119 matches. Harman’s presence in the defense is a boon for any hockey team.
The other vice-captain of the team is Odisha’s Lakra who will also be playing his second Olympics after London 2012. One of the most senior members of the team, the 31-year old missed out on his chance to play in the Rio Olympics because of an injury. Moving forward, the SAIL Academy product fought his way into the team within a year and played in the 2018 Hockey World Cup
with 197 caps to his name, Birendra’s combination with goalkeeper PR Sreejesh has always been talked about. Playing in perhaps his last Olympics, the Rourkela boy will be looking to end his career on a high.
Rupinder Pal Singh
Nicknamed ‘Bob’ by the entire team, the 6’6 talismanic defender has scored a whopping 115 goals from 216 matches. Bob has been in and out of the team having missed the 2018 Hockey World Cup, but made a strong comeback.
The vice-captain of the 2014 Commonwealth games silver-medal winning side, the 31-year old is a leader in himself. The lethal drag-flicker has some unfinished business left in Rio and will be looking for a podium finish at the Tokyo Olympics with the team.
A fun fact about Surender is that he idolizes Birendra Lakra, who is his partner in the defense line. Both Surender and Birendra are the same kind of players who just focus on complete defense and don’t worry about anything else.
The 28-year old has been a regular in the team and puts his body on the line to clear every single ball.
German legend Moritz Furste regarded Amit as the best first-runner in the world and he has proved it time and again. The Panposh Sports Hostel product played in the 2014 Hockey Men’s World League final but was dropped after that.
His spirited performances in the Hockey India League saw him make a comeback into the Indian Men’s hockey team and he hasn’t looked back since. The only Olympic debutant in the defensive line-up and a drag-flicker par excellence who has got enough power to hit the net would be looking to give it his all in his debut Olympics.
Can the defenders win the game single-handedly for the Indian men’s hockey team?
With all these stats and figures, the Indian Men’s hockey team defenders seem to be dependable enough to deny a goal to any opposition in the world. The onus would be on Sreejesh and Amit to deny the best flickers a goal into the net.
If Harman and Rupinder start scoring from the penalty corners with Surender and Birendra looking after the defense, there is no stopping Team India from breaking the 41-year old medal jinx at the Tokyo Olympics.